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Morning Groundwork Laid

August 10, 2013 (Ypsilanti, MI) - The "Is Islam a Religion of Peace?" conference began today by laying the groundwork for the debates later. Al Kresta spoke on "The Big Difference" between Islam and Christianity, and Andrew Bieszad on "Common and Rocky Ground."

Kresta's talk began with a short YouTube video of a rap by a young Muslim woman, clarifying that we are not discussing here whether Muslims are good or bad people, but whether Islam is a religion of peace, and with a quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church on Islam.
Kresta began to juxtapose Islam and Christianity by presenting a conflict: "is the God of Mohammed also the Father of Jesus? ... There is no way to fit this together. Islam's reason for existence is to proclaim the utter uniqueness of God: He is no Father, and He has no Son... Muslims unequivocally deny the fatherhood of God and the sonship of Christ.”
He went on, "This is the big difference. How would Christianity and Islam answer these questions: Are human beings made in God's image? Does God establish covenants with people?.... We believe Christ images the Father and as Christians we must also image Him in our art. Islam considers this not a step forward but blasphemous."
Andrew Bieszad, in his talk again detailed contrasts between Christianity and Islam, and then outlined options for coexistence, for example, conversion of the Muslim world through Our Lady of Fatima. Formal consecration of Russia to Mary may be the way to conversion.

Problems in the West make it seem that only a miracle could save the West from Islamicization. "But Jesus is the living God of miracles.... He gave his mother to us as a great intercessor. It is she who put the crescent of Islam under her foot."

Biezsad ended by encouraging us all to petition the Holy Father to make a formal consecration of Russia to Our Lady of Fatima, and a plea for Mary to pray for us.

ObamaCare ‘death panel’ faces growing opposition from Democrats

By Elise Viebeck - 08/08/13 05:00 AM ET 
The Hill   

ObamaCare’s cost-cutting board — memorably called a “death panel” by Sarah Palin — is facing growing opposition from Democrats who say it will harm people on Medicare.

Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean drew attention to the board designed to limit Medicare cost growth when he called for its repeal in an op-ed late last month.

Dean was quickly criticized by supporters of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), who noted his ties to the healthcare industry as an adviser to a major D.C. lobbying firm.

But the former Vermont governor is not the only Democrat looking to kill the panel.

A wave of vulnerable Democrats over the past three months has signed on to bills repealing the board’s powers, including Sen. Mark Pryor (Ark.) and Reps. Ron Barber (Ariz.), Ann Kirkpatrick (Ariz.), Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) and Elizabeth Esty (Conn.).

All five are considered vulnerable in next year’s election, highlighting the stakes and the political angst surrounding the healthcare measure.

The four House Democrats faced criticism from their party in July after voting with Republicans to delay ObamaCare's individual and employer mandates — moves widely interpreted as political positioning ahead of 2014.

Two of the lawmakers explained their opposition by suggesting the board would limit care for Medicare patients.

But the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) blasted the four Democrats for “desperately trying to jump off the ObamaCare train.”

The cost-cutting board has been dogged with controversy over the last three years.

Major healthcare interests like the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association and the pharmaceutical lobby have supported IPAB repeal, saying the panel would cut providers' pay arbitrarily.

Public awareness of the board shot up last year when Palin called it a “death panel,” connecting the IPAB to her previous attacks on a proposal to encourage end-of-life planning in the Affordable Care Act.

“Though I was called a liar for calling it like it is, many of these accusers finally saw that ObamaCare did in fact create a panel of faceless bureaucrats who have the power to make life and death decisions about healthcare funding,” Palin wrote on Facebook.

Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/health-reform-implementation/316045-obamacare-cost-cutting-board-faces-growing-opposition-from-democrats#ixzz2bUbfoyrO
Follow us: @thehill on Twitter | TheHill on Facebook

IRS agent: Tax agency is still targeting Tea Party groups

By PAUL BEDARD | AUGUST 9, 2013 AT 6:35 AM   
Washington Examiner
Chairman Dave Camp
 House Ways and Means Committee
Chairman Dave Camp
In a remarkable admission that is likely to rock the Internal Revenue Service again, testimony released Thursday by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp reveals that an agent involved in reviewing tax exempt applications from conservative groups told a committee investigator that the agency is still targeting Tea Party groups, three months after the IRS scandal erupted.

In closed door testimony before the House Ways & Means Committee, the unidentified IRS agent said requests for special tax status from Tea Party groups is being forced into a special "secondary screening" because the agency has yet to come up with new guidance on how to judge the tax status of the groups.

In a redacted transcript from the committee provided to Secrets, a Ways & Means investigator asked: "If you saw -- I am asking this currently, if today if a Tea Party case, a group -- a case from a Tea Party group came in to your desk, you reviewed the file and there was no evidence of political activity, would you potentially approve that case? Is that something you would do?"

The agent said, "At this point I would send it to secondary screening, political advocacy."
The committee staffer then said, "So you would treat a Tea Party group as a political advocacy case even if there was no evidence of political activity on the application. Is that right?" The agent admitted, "Based on my current manager's direction, uh-huh."

Camp called the renewed targeting of Tea Party groups "outrageous."
Added a committee aide, "In plain English, the IRS is still targeting Tea Party cases."

During 2010-2012 period when the anti-Obama Tea Party groups faced special scrutiny from the president's IRS, agents used a "be on the lookout," or BOLO, list which said groups with words like "Tea Party" in their title should face special, secondary screening for political activities that might hamper their special tax status.

When the scandal erupted after a Treasury Department inspector general revealed the improper political scrutiny, the acting head of the IRS, Danny Werfel, said the BOLO list had been suspended. That was six weeks ago.

But because there is nothing in its place, agents apparently either don't know how to handle Tea Party tax exempt applications, or are too scared to make a decision.

Asked by the committee how it handles Tea Party applications, the agent said, "If a political advocacy case came in today, I would give it -- or talk about it to my manager because right now we really don't have any direction or we haven't had any for the last month and a half."

Camp, the Michigan Republican, told Secrets, "It is outrageous that IRS management continues to target Tea Party cases without any justification. The harassment, abuse and delays these Americans have faced over the last few years has been unwarranted, unprovoked and, at times, possibly illegal. The fact that the IRS still continues to treat the Tea Party differently and subject them to additional targeting is outrageous and it must stop immediately."

In response, the IRS reiterated Werfel's pledge to not target groups because of political labels. "The IRS has taken decisive action to eliminate the use of inappropriate political labels in the screening of 501(c)(4) applications. We look forward to seeing the full transcript to gain a fuller understanding of the context of the interview," they said early Friday.

Werfel, called in to fix the scandal, directed the IRS to eliminate the use of BOLO lists. The statement said that "IRS policy is now clear that screening is based on activity, not words in a name. The new steps and current policies...specifically spells out that political campaign intervention will be reviewed without regard to specific labels. The IRS will not tolerate any deviation from this."

In an IRS review, the plan was that after the BOLO lists were removed, political labels would be ignored by the "Determinations Unit" as they screened for information for those seeking tax exempt status.

Below is the Ways & Means Committee transcript of the IRS official.
Wednesday, August 1, 2013
Committee: Today, currently, how do you analyze advocacy cases. If, for example, Tea Party of Arkansas came in today, how would you handle it?
IRS agent: Well, the BOLO list doesn't exist anymore.
Committee: Sure.
IRS: If a political advocacy case came in today, I would give it -- or talk about it to my manager because right now we really don't have any direction or we haven't had any for the last month and a half.

Read the rest here: http://washingtonexaminer.com/irs-agent-tax-agency-is-still-targeting-tea-party-groups/article/2534044

‘Angel’ priest visits Missouri accident scene

Melanie Eversley, USA TODAY 11:04 a.m. EDT August 8, 2013

A mystery priest who suddenly appeared at a Mo. accident scene is being called an angel.


Even odder, the black-garbed priest does not appear in any of the nearly 70 photos of the scene of the accident in which a 19-year-old girl almost died. No one knows the priest and he vanished without a word, said Raymond Reed, fire chief of New London, Mo.

"I think it's a miracle," Reed said. "I would say whether it was an angel that was sent to us in the form of a priest or a priest that became our angel, I don't know. Either way, I'm good with it."

Carla Churchill Lentz, mother of the teen who was critically injured, said emergency workers have told her there is no way her daughter should have lived inside such a mangled car. Of the priest, she said, "I do believe he certainly could have been an angel dressed in priest's attire because the Bible tells us there are angels among us."

The scene unfolded Sunday morning. Katie Lentz, a sophomore at Tulane University, was driving from her parents' home in Quincy, Ill., to Jefferson City, Mo., where she has a summer internship and planned to attend church with friends. The Mercedes she was driving collided with another vehicle on a highway near Center, Mo. The accident crushed Lentz's vehicle into a ball of sheet metal that lay on the driver's side, Reed said.
Reed's team and emergency workers from several other jurisdictions tried for at least 45 minutes to remove the twisted metal from around Lentz. Various pieces of equipment broke and the team was running out of choices. A helicopter waited to carry Lentz to the nearest trauma center. Though Lentz appeared calm, talking about her church and her studies toward a dentistry degree, her vital signs were beginning to fail, Reed said.

"I was pulled off to the side by one of the members of the" helicopter evacuation team, Reed said. "He expressed to me that we were out of time. Her condition looked grim for her coming out of that vehicle alive. She was facing major problems."

At that point, Reed's team agreed to take the life-threatening chance of sitting the vehicle upright so that Lentz could be removed from it. This is dangerous because a sudden change in pressure to the body can be critical, he said.

That's when Lentz asked if someone would pray with her and a voice said, "I will."

The silver-haired priest in his 50s or 60s in black pants, black shirt and black collar with visible white insert stepped forward from nowhere. It struck Reed as odd because the street was blocked off 2 miles from the scene and no one from the nearby communities recognized him.

"We're all local people from four different towns," Reed said. "We've only got one Catholic church out of three towns and it wasn't their priest."

Reed and the other emergency workers were on their knees. The priest of about medium build, maybe 6-feet-tall, stood above them.

"This priest approached Katie and began to pray openly with her," Reed said. "He had a bottle of anointing oil with him and he used that."

Another firefighter who had been watching said it appeared as if the priest also sprinkled Reed and two other emergency workers nearby with oil.

Everything happened quickly after that. Twenty emergency workers pulled together and sat the car upright, Churchill Lentz said. Katie Lentz's vital signs improved and a rescue team from a neighboring community suddenly appeared with fresh equipment and tools. Lentz was removed and rushed to the hospital.

With Lentz gone, the rescue team prepared to clean up, Reed said.

"We all go back to thank this priest and he's gone," he said.

Initially, they assumed he had to get to his home church to lead Sunday services. But then they looked at their photos of the scene.

"I have 69 photographs that were taken from minutes after that accident happened — bystanders, the extrication, our final cleanup — and he's not in them," Reed said. "All we want to do is thank him."

Read the rest here: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/08/07/angel-crash-missouri/2630227/

Catholic radio host defends Islamic scholar’s debate choice



Citing the need for public dialogue, Catholic radio host Al Kresta defended Islamic scholar Shadid Lewis’ invite to controversial critic Robert Spencer to a symposium and debate sponsored by Ave Maria Radio.
“It was Shadid Lewis of the Muslim Debate Initiative who called for a public debate with Spencer,” Kresta said Aug. 7, adding that he “was disappointed that Robert Spencer's participation was treated as a sign of ill will.”

Spencer, the author of the book “Religion of Peace,” is one of several speakers at an Aug. 10 symposium at Eastern Michigan University on the topic “Is Islam a Religion of Peace?”

A Catholic columnist, blogger and bestselling author, Spencer has led seminars for the U.S. Army, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, and other government agencies.

He is scheduled to debate Shadid Lewis, a member of the Muslim Debate Initiative and a former president of a Hampton, Va., mosque.

The invitation drew criticism from those who charged that Spencer spreads anti-Islamic and bigoted rhetoric. However, Kresta - who is the president and CEO of Ave Maria Communications - defended the decision, saying that Lewis had called for it as an opportunity for engagement.

“Have we lost our confidence in honest confrontation?” Kresta asked. “Spencer’s positions are held by millions of Americans and if they are baseless, the competent Muslim apologists will demonstrate it.”

“To those who sit on the sidelines and criticize, I prefer my way of bringing people together to their way of not doing it.”

Lewis told the Detroit Free Press in a recent interview that Spencer “represents true bigotry.” He cited the actions of the U.K. government, which barred Spencer from the country on the ground that his presence would not be “conducive to the public good.”

“It’s a pretty big thing to be banned from a country,” Lewis said.

Spencer said Aug. 7 on his blog Jihad Watch the ban was the consequence of “smears and defamation.”

His blog argues that non-Muslims are facing “a concerted effort by Islamic jihadists, the motives and goals of whom are largely ignored by Western media, to destroy their societies and impose Islamic law upon them -- and to commit violence to that end even while their overall goal remains out of reach.”

Spencer says that violent jihad is “a constant of Islamic history and a central element of Islamic theology.”

Dawood Zwink, executive director of the Michigan Muslim Community Council, charged that Spencer’s presentations are “incendiary” and “not in keeping with American values of civil dialogue.”

“I think it’s sad to see that this group would try to stage this kind of confrontational encounter, when Catholic and Muslim leaders are engaged in an ongoing, cordial dialogue,” Zwink told the Detroit Free Press.

Spencer said his critics were off-base.

“It would be nice for someone to have the courage to say that there is nothing wrong with resisting jihad violence and Islamic supremacism, but that may be too much to hope for in today's politically correct age,” he wrote on his blog.

Read the rest here: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/catholic-radio-host-defends-islamic-scholars-debate-choice/

Islam Conference Receives Widespread News and Blog Coverage

PrintPosted on: August 8th, 2013 by kresta in the afternoon
Ann Arbor, Michigan
August 8, 2013

Ave Maria Radio’s August 10th Conference at Eastern Michigan University, Is Islam a Religion of Peace?, has received widespread news coverage, both positive and negative, across the world. The conference, which will include both Muslims and Christians in various debates in presentations, will cover topics such as: Does Islam Support Religious Liberty?, Is Islam a Religion of Peace?, and Does Islam Produce Democracy?, along with other pressing differences and legal concerns.

Below are some additional links to stories about the upcoming conference:

FindLaw: http://legalpronews.findlaw.com/article/08jO5kh6sIgmb

IranAware (American Infidels): http://iranaware.com/2013/07/17/robert-spencer-to-debate-muslim-scholars-on-is-islam-a-religion-of-peace-at-michigan-conference/

Nadia Sindi Facebook post: https://www.facebook.com/vote4nadiasindi/posts/481883848573277

Celebrity Balla: http://www.celebrityballa.com/2013/08/anders-behring-breivik/news-smears-detroit-patricia-free-repeats-press-robert-spence

Michiguide.com: http://www.michiguide.com/archives2013/2013/08/newsmakers-and-links-aug-7-201.html

Historyscoper / IslamWatch: http://historyscoper-islamwatch.blogspot.com.au/2013/08/catholic-radio-station-invites-robert.html

Islamic Alert: http://islamicalert.com/robert-spencer-to-debate-muslim-scholars-on-is-islam-a-religion-of-peace-at-michigan-conference.html

NewsRT-US: http://www.newsrt.us/news/catholic-radio-station-invites-anti-islam-blogger-to-speak-at-emu-1145862.html

BlogoWogo: http://www.blogowogo.com/blog_article.php?aid=5019288&t=2

Jewish Blog Network: http://www.israelforum.com/blog_article.php?aid=4985212

United Patriots Worldwide: http://unitedpatriotsworldwide.com/vinienco/2013/08/07/catholic-radio-station-invites-robert-spencer-speak-eastern-michigan-university

Robert Spencer on Franciscan University Presents

Original air date: May 2012.

Robert Spencer: “Evangelization and Islam: The Dangers, Difficulties, and Rewards of Sharing the Faith with Muslims”

Robert Spencer at the Defending the Faith Conference at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, July 27, 2012.

Today on "Kresta in the Afternoon" – August 8, 2013

Talking about the "things that matter most" on August 8

Live From the Catholic Marketing Network Expo

4:00 –  Under the Mantle: Marian Thoughts from a 21st Century Priest
Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC is here to share his personal insights on topics including Divine Mercy, the Eucharist, the papacy, the Church, confession, prayer, the cross, masculinity, and femininity. The Blessed Virgin Mary is the central thread weaving a tapestry throughout with quotes about Our Lady from saints, blessed, and popes. Certain to become a "tour de force" Marian book for the Year of Faith! He joins us.

4:20 – Battle Saint
The BattleSaint™ project was hatched by a military Mom at a recent family reunion.  She hosted 7 of her immediate relatives who were enlisted in the military. Many of them had been deployed multiple times. The night was full of stories of war and close calls. She realized how great it would be to create a unique bracelet to honor their service and provide a sense of protection from the dangers of the battlefield.  With this inspiration, she designed handmade, wooden bracelets with pictures of Saints relevant to the military. There is more to this story and Jim LeMay is here to discuss it.

4:40 – Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood
In her memoir, Pat Gohn draws on decades of women's ministry experience, her popular Catholic women's podcast Among Women, and her own story as a wife and mother, proclaiming the Church's compelling vision of every woman: you have dignity, you are gifted, and you have a mission. She guides us through moments of her life that have shaped her identity and understanding of womanhood--abiding love and talent for music, breast cancer in her thirties, and coming to understand true feminism in light of Church teaching and Mary's example. Gohn is here to share how she became empowered to embrace her blessings, beauty, and bodaciousness, and how we can do the same.

5:00 – The Ear of the Heart: An Actress' Journey from Hollywood to Holy Vows
Dolores Hart stunned Hollywood in 1963, when after ten highly successful feature films, she chose to enter a contemplative monastery. Now, fifty years later, Mother Dolores gives this fascinating account of her life. Dolores was a bright and beautiful college student when she made her film debut with Elvis Presley in Paramount's 1957 Loving You. She also gave a Tony-nominated performance on Broadway. Born Dolores Hicks to a complicated and colorful Chicago family, Mother Hart has traveled a charmed yet challenging road in her journey toward God, serenity and, yes, love. She entered the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Conn., at the peak of her career, not in order to leave the glamorous world of acting she had dreamed of since childhood, but in order to answer a mysterious summons she heard with the "ear of the heart". While contracted for another film and engaged to be married, she gave up everything to become a bride of Christ. Mother Dolores Hart joins us.
5:20 – The Miraculous Medal: Stories, Prayers, and Devotions
Over twenty years ago, Mother Teresa gave Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle a blessed Miraculous Medal, and she has never taken it off. To date, Donna-Marie has given away thousands of Miraculous Medals. But what is the Miraculous Medal--and why is it considered miraculous? Why is it important for us today? Donna-Marie is here to answer these questions and tells us about the origin and history of the Miraculous Medal, how the medal got its name and more.
5:40 – Rapunzel Let Down: A Fairy Tale Retold
A teen summer romance in New England has disastrous consequences when the daring son of a conservative senator forms a secret relationship with the isolated daughter of a reclusive scientist. It’s a modern retelling of the classic tale “Rapunzel” by Regina Doman. She joins us.

How a critic of Islam ended up in the check-out aisle

Posted on: August 7th, 2013 by kresta in the afternoon
PrintNational Post
August 7, 2013

By Barbara Kay

As the topic for its popular annual debate last May, the Oxford University Union proposed that “This House believes Islam is a religion of peace.”
Considering the venue — Oxford is, like many Western universities, marinated in political correctness — it’s hardly surprising that the motion passed 286-186 (as described in Robert Fulford’s July 27 column).

Indeed, in the culturally self-flagellating world of academia, where offending Muslim sensibilities is anathema, but offending Christian sensibilities is virtually a moral obligation, a motion such as “This House believes that Christianity promotes war and racism” would likely pass quite handily as well.

“Is Islam a religion of peace?” will also be up for public discussion Aug. 10 in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Subtitled “Catholic Witness in a Nation Divided,” this conference is organized by Ave Maria Communications, a Catholic marketing network. It’s reasonable to assume that this less politically correct venue will provide a sharp contrast with the Oxford experience.

The speakers list includes: Robert Spencer, director of the controversial web site Jihad Watch; Mustafa Akyol, Turkish journalist and author of Islam without extremes: a Muslim case for liberty; Richard Thompson, president of the Thomas More Law Center; Shadid Lewis, Regional Director of the Muslim Debate Initiative USA; and Al Kresta, writer, missionary, CEO of Ave Maria Radio and host of the radio talk show “Kresta in the Afternoon.”

The conference speaker that particularly interests me, though, is a young man by the name of Andrew Bieszad, an Islamic Studies scholar with a specialty in Christian-Muslim relations. In fact I learned of the conference during a telephone interview with Bieszad after reading his book Lions of the Faith (which I am reviewing for a Catholic magazine).

Bieszad’s book is a compendium of brief narratives, chronicling the lives of Catholics martyred for their faith by Muslims. His interspersed prefaces to the litany of martyrdoms, organized into four eras from Islam’s birth to modern times, provide tutorials in such topics as the Crusades, the Christian reconquest of the Iberian peninsula, the Ottoman Empire, the knightly chivalric orders, the Islamic invasion of Europe and the Inquisition.

The Hartford Seminary in Connecticut.
The Hartford Seminary in Connecticut.

Bieszad came to my attention in 2011 when, in an open letter, he detailed his experiences as a student of Islamic Studies at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, once a Protestant seminary for missionaries bound for Muslim regions, but today, according to Bieszad, despite many “brilliant, highly-educated Muslim and non-Muslim professors who value scholarship,” an institution that promotes “Islamo-correctness.”

Fluent in Arabic and many other languages, Bieszad was considered a “unique addition” to the Masters program at Hartford Seminary because of what he describes as “my strong interest in and strong disagreement with Islamic teachings.”

And so he proved to be. Although there were other Christians in the program, notably in the class on “interfaith dialogue,” he claims to have been the only non-Muslim to say aloud, “I am Catholic and I do not believe in Islam.”

Bieszad reports that he paid a heavy price for his forthrightness, being, by his account, routinely subjected to insults and threats by Muslim students. He writes that one student told him, “according to Islam you do not deserve to live.” Bieszad claims that his detractors were not censured, either by professors or by other Christian students.

Conversion to Islam was encouraged, Bieszad writes; but Christian proselytism was forbidden. Christianity, Bieszad alleges, was taught in the context of homosexuality, class discrimination and women’s liberation from patriarchal oppression. But in classes on Islam, he says, the professor never spoke of any “contextual” Koranic interpretation, let alone from a feminist, socialist or gay perspective.

When Bieszad brought his concerns to the administration, he says, he was accused of being “intolerant” of Islam, and ordered to show a “better understanding of Islam” as a solution.
Bieszad will likely incorporate these personal experiences into his conference presentation. He may include, as well, provocative statements from his book, such as: “Islam is … the only [world] religion whose theology specifically denounces and calls for the destruction of Christianity as a whole and regardless of form.”

Bieszad wants to do a PhD, but Islamic Studies is a small world. So far, he says, no U.S. Islamic Studies program he’s applied to will have him. While seeking an academic berth, this courageous scholar, married and the father of two young children, is employed in a Connecticut grocery store.

Source: http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/08/07/barbara-kay-how-a-critic-of-islam-ended-up-in-the-check-out-aisle/
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